Mr Toko is a professional woodcarver who was raised in Akanko Onsen.
Mr Toko is the son of the late Nuburi Toko, an Ainu woodcarver who was also a producer for the theater group at Akanko Ainu Kotan. After graduating from a design school in Sapporo, he found work in Tokyo. At the age of 24, he returned to Akanko Onsen to take over his family’s store, and later studied traditional Ainu culture, such as traditional Ainu dance.
Later, he began working as stage director for Akanko Ainu Theater <Ikor>, and in 2019, presented AKAN YUKAR LOST KAMUY, a new program which combines Ainu dance with computer graphics. He also personally takes the stage as one of the performance’s dancers.
“Ita” are traditional Ainu trays, engraved with uniquely beautiful Ainu patterns. The best wood for ita carving comes from the katsura tree (Japanese Judas tree). Even when Mr Toko arranges his own designs and patterns, he insists upon selecting materials that were chosen and used by artisans long ago. He feels that the quality of these materials are proven by long years of use in daily life by the Ainu. He performs maintenance to suit the needs of the users, with hopes that each piece will be lovingly used for many years to come.
Mr Toko believes that the Akanko Ainu Kotan has become something of a hybrid by blending the cultures of many regions. Here, it is only natural to adopt the technologies of the digital age, and use mechanical tools to create crafts. He feels that this area is very open-minded towards updating culture into new forms, based upon thorough study of tradition. While open-minded towards change, the people of Akanko Ainu Kotan are ever respectful to the soul of Ainu culture, as expressed through ceremonies, song, and dance. As long as the root is properly laid, only good flowers will bloom. The flow of Ainu culture is firmly rooted in a foundation of expressing changes depending on the era.
Mr Toko serves as director of the Akan Ainu Industrial Arts Association, and vice-president of the Akan Ainu Association. He currently manages the store, Toko Nuburi no Mise Yukar-do, while also appearing in AKAN YUKAR LOST KAMUY.
Toko Nuburi no Mise Yukar-do
4-7-11 Akanko Onsen, Akan-cho, Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido